Skip to content

The Island of Lost Maps: A True Story of Cartographic Crime, by Miles Harvey

March 22, 2007

mansa-musa.jpg

The 1375 Catalan map with Mansa Musa, King of Mali.

     This is a book about maps, and the greatest map thief of modern times: Gilbert Bland, Jr.  The book is about much more than a criminal, however.  Every conceivable bit of information that you might connect with maps is written about with great passion in this book; information that is intriguing, enlightening, riveting, and astonishing. 

    And where do we find most maps?  In an atlas – and what is an atlas?  A book!  Atlases from a world that was beginning to look like the one we know today, were highly prized in the 1500’s.  These unique treasures presently live in libraries all over the country, and are looked after by the sentinel of the library: librarians.  Now can you imagine walking into a tranquil, inviting library with a knife, sitting quietly in a rare book room, and cutting maps out of books?  Books that have been well taken care of and cherished for 500 years?  One must shudder.

     Possibly my favorite paragraph in the book:

     “What a vapid job title our culture gives to those honorable laborers the ancient Egyptians and Sumerians variously called Learned Men of the Magic Library, Scribes of the Double House of Life, Mistresses of the House of Books, or Ordainers of the Universe.  Librarian – that mouth-contorting, graceless grind of a word, that dry gulch in the dictionary between libido and licentious – it practically begs you to envision a stoop-shouldered loser, socks mismatched, eyes locked in  a permanent squint from reading too much microfiche.  If it were up to me, I would abolish the word entirely and turn back to the lexicological wisdom of the ancients, who saw librarians not as feeble sorters and shelvers but as heroic guardians.  In Assyrian, Babylonian, and Egyptian cultures alike, those who toiled at the shelves were often bestowed with a proud, even soldierly, title: Keeper of the Books.”  In the opinion of historian Barbara Tuchman, librarians believe that “books are humanity in print.”  Librarians are guarding mortal flesh, and if books are not protected, the past dies.

     This wonderful little book tells the sad tale of a man on a path to ruin, and of the ruin he leaves behind on his path.  It also tells about the glorious human need to question, wonder, journey, voyage, explore, and tell stories about it. 

     I was captivated with the tale that Miles Harvey most eloquently tells, and I highly recommend it. 

Advertisements
6 Comments leave one →
  1. April 13, 2007 11:58 pm

    Thanks for recommending this book. Every book I have on grammar is so boring. This one sounds good. I’ll try to find it at Borders.

  2. September 19, 2014 3:02 am

    Here, in this article; all such thoughts have been summarized for you.

    When your site is linked by another reputed business, it helps the
    search engines find you. You could offer this free chapter as
    a bonus for signing up to your newsletter.

  3. September 19, 2014 3:07 pm

    When someone writes an article he/she retains
    the image of a user in his/her bdain that how a user can know it.
    Thus that’s why this article is outstdanding. Thanks!

  4. September 20, 2014 4:28 am

    In Wales there was a proverb reflecting the power of this plant: “No mistletoe, no buck”.
    It is tempting to perform the hair restoration procedure soon after the face-lift.

    and few, if any, of his former patients would disagree.

  5. September 25, 2014 1:22 pm

    The quantitative hcg test is performed when the amount of hcg is desired
    to be known. HCG injections are essentially meant to cause the effect of appetite inhibition, lowering calorie
    intake and, most importantly, help break down fat stores in the
    body, resulting in easy and fast weight loss. The area of the brain called the hypothalamus uses this hormone to manage fat stores for
    energy in order to nourish the child, if the mum eat too few nutrients.

  6. September 26, 2014 4:30 am

    I know this web site provides quality depending posts and other material,
    is there any other web site which provides such stuff
    in quality?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: